It’s a pleasure to welcome both Lauralyn Vasquez and Ernie Delgado back to The Teacher’s Lounge podcast and our blog. Ernie is the founder and CEO of Beyond Technology Education, one of our content partners here at Curriculum Trak and Lauralyn is Director of Operations and Educational Services with Beyond Technology. We’ve had both Ernie and Lauralyn on the podcast before to talk about other topics, and you can find those episodes here.
Michael Arnold: Today we want to talk about some of the seismic shifts happening in educational technology and how we here at Curriculum Trak are partnering with BTE to address some of those changes. Today it seems like AI and Chat GPT is on everyone’s minds and in the news on a regular basis. So it seems like this is a great time for curriculum people like us and technology people like Ernie and Lauralyn to work together in even greater ways. So we’re happy to announce today on the podcast a conference that Ernie and Lauralyn are coordinating and the role that Curriculum Trak will play with them along with some of the other topics of discussion that we have planned. I realize you guys are joining us from California and I use the words seismic shift, and that may not be the best term, but that is what seems to be happening in technology these days.
Let’s start with kind of a softball question. You’ve both been in educational technology for most of your adult lives and careers. What is exciting you most about educational technology today? What are you focusing on? What do you think is providing a lot of opportunities for educators these days?
Lauralyn Vasquez: Right now we are seeing a seismic shift with the introduction of AI and chat GPT, but what excites me the most about this era that we’re in is that technology is not just a fun little add-on. It’s actually a necessity within our classrooms so that our students will be prepared for life outside of the classroom.
And people have talked about how students are digital natives and we already are teaching them things they don’t even need to know. It’s just going to be intuitive. But people are starting to see that no, it’s not intuitive. Just because you know how to write doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to write a letter.
Ernie Delgado: Yeah, good points, Lauralyn. A lot of people are looking at chat GPT, the good, bad, ugly. They’re concerned in some cases, excited in others.
When it comes to things like technology and innovation, it’s not going to stop. It’s going to continue to happen. When I meet with the educators, I always talk about Moore’s Law, where processing power doubles every 18 months.
And on top of that is innovation. And innovation in many industries is just hockey stick growth. Education’s a little more flat. But then you see something like chat GPT come along, and people compare it to the Gutenberg Press and they compare it to the internet. And I think those are fair comparisons, but I don’t think the goal is to be afraid of it and hide from it. It’s to leverage it and use it. Of course be cautious of what’s possible and create stop gap measures, but at the same time understand how to leverage this because this is an extension of the human mind. There’s nothing that chat GPT knows that a human person didn’t know first because it’s just a collection of people’s ideas and thoughts in written materials.
And now we have access to all that. Here’s a great analogy: Michael, who’s your favorite author?
Michael Arnold: I like Henry Cloud. He’s really been influential. Philip Yancy. C.S. Lewis would be high up on the list.
Ernie Delgado: Okay. Three good ones. Okay. Lauralyn, where do you get information from?
Lauralyn Vasquez: My information comes now from chat GPT.
Ernie Delgado: Before that was around?
Lauralyn Vasquez: Before that was around, I was a big Google fan. We teach students how to research, so they’re looking up the education, not just finding opinion pieces, but knowing how to really find research.
Ernie Delgado: Michael, you mentioned three authors. Imagine now you’re responsible to read everything that those authors ever wrote, and all their contemporaries, every book that they’ve ever written that’s even in that sphere. You’re now in charge of reading all of that and cataloging all that information.
Multiply that times every author on the planet, every periodical on the planet, all the stuff that’s on Google that Lauralyn looks at, chat GPT now has access to that instantly. Instantly. It’s just mind-boggling. So we’re excited about it and we now include it in the things that we do and help educators understand how they can leverage it for their benefit.
Michael Arnold: I want to go back to something that Lauralyn said, if we can, about the skills that we maybe aren’t teaching as technology is shifting so much. And I think what I really appreciate about Beyond Technology Education is that digital citizenship, the character building. Just because you can use a tool doesn’t mean that you’re able to use it effectively and in the right way. And I think that might be the big dichotomy between technology and education. How do we teach students how to be human even as we’re teaching them to lean into technology?
Lauralyn Vasquez: That issue has been around for a long time. Just because we could get magazines as kids when we walked down to the Five and Dime store doesn’t mean that we should have gotten all those magazines. Our parents talked to us about character and ethics, and we would also have these conversations in the school about character and ethics. And so I look at it now, now that we have those magazines right in our hands, we’re needing to teach those same things to the students, and it needs to be reinforced from the home, reinforced from the school, reinforced from churches, wherever it is that our students are at.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. When Google first started, do you remember when you could just put in something and search it? It was blowing people’s minds, the things that you could search. And we have to teach our students and our children how to properly search, right?
Michael Arnold: I think that the fact that not everything was readily available to us when we were younger is part of the scary side of chat GPT and as Ernie described, take your favorite authors and the power of Google and put it all together and you can find it on chat GPT. Our students have access to this. How do we even begin to regulate this, to protect our students in the ways that they need to be protected, but then also give them some guidelines and some support in knowing what to do with the power that they now have in their hands? Are they capable of wielding such power?
Ernie Delgado: Good question to ask and answer, Michael, because that’s where a lot of people are today. And I’ll tell you something I read one time. It was about this brand new technology that was in every classroom in America. And with this technology, students could access people from anywhere around the world, good, bad, good players, bad actors. And this article was from the thirties and was about the telephone. So we figured out the telephone, and no one’s messing with our kids.
And then we figured it out with computers. We figured it out with online resources. And so, at every level along the way, we have figured it out. We have to. These are our children. This is our greatest treasure. And we build that into our curriculum. How do you make sure that students know what’s right and wrong? And if you come across something wrong, how do you get out of it immediately? When the students are on their own investigating things, they need to understand when that happens, this is what to do. Because it’s bound to happen, unfortunately, that’s just the world we live in now.
Michael Arnold: Could you tell us just in a few minutes some of the gaps that you’re trying to fill to help educators keep up with the changes in technology and help their students become prepared to use technology? What are some of the initiatives that you’re pursuing right now to continue supporting educators in that way?
Lauralyn Vasquez: A big one is research. How to spot fake news, how to know when an article’s an opinion or not an opinion. We have really seen the need for that in our culture and in our world. But we are also giving students the tools on researching their own and being able to identify a bias or a bent an article might have and actually being able to read an article and understand the language that is in it and how to identify the worldview that it’s coming from. Our students are on technology reading these things, so we need to teach in technology class how to identify these things.
And research skills are so significantly needed. Just because something is on social media doesn’t mean it’s not a lie, right? Or it doesn’t mean it’s not trying to indoctrinate you in one way or another, and we’ve all fallen victim to it. My parents have, I have, our children have. And we have to constantly be aware of it. I remember at the beginning of the Covid lockdown, a friend of mine sent something from her husband who’s a fireman, and I was believing everything he said–that we were going to go under martial law. I’m thinking that if a fireman is telling, he’s going to know and I had a moment of panic. And then later I was with a group of my girlfriends, and all of a sudden we started unpacking it and asking questions and it wasn’t the case. He was forwarding something in his panic that he thought was real.
I continually tell people that we have to know how to have these research skills to really understand and that is a huge part.
Ernie Delgado: We have developed what we call the Next Generation Technology Program. We come at it from several different directions. We have powerful computer science and digital literacy curriculum, which addresses all these concerns from keyboarding to programming and everything in between, including chat GPT. And then we also do assessment-based professional development where we ask questions to teachers, such as, What do you want to learn about with technology? What do you want to do in your classroom? What skills do you want them to learn? And how can we help you? We actually will do training on that. And then we have a large customization piece when we tell the teachers, Okay, here are the things you want to do, and now we’ll build that lesson plan for you.
So we look at the whole problem and come at it from different directions from basic skills to PD to custom lessons. But at the end of the day, our goal is to raise the technology level at a school. Technology changes every day. We’re here to help.
And it’s like we’re recession proof. Schools are always going to need us. There’s always something new. And we’re very fortunate that we serve a really important niche, and it’s getting more important every day because technology’s changing every day.
And thank goodness, Lauralyn has a really strong background in EdTech and integration and PD and instructional design which she’s building through the curriculum. And it’s always been updated. She and her team are very well qualified and equipped to help schools really evaluate where they are and build a plan to go forward.
Michael Arnold: Yeah. Not to mention Lauralyn’s been in the classroom, has served as an educator and has lived that side of it, so she sees it from both perspectives, and I think that’s really powerful. And as we have opportunities to talk and work together, I know that’s one of the reasons I really love working with you guys is because you take it so seriously. You are so intentional and your heart is really to help educators build the role that they’re being asked to fill today in preparing students for the next generation.
And so that’s why I think it’s really interesting that we’re focusing on chat GPT and all the other forms of AI and bringing that to the conference that we’re planning in Brea, California, in July. Give us the dates of the conference and just an overview of what you’re trying to do there.
Ernie Delgado: July 24th through 26th at the Embassy Suites in Brea, California. Innovative Educator Conference. Every summer we do a training meeting. All of our schools send a computer teacher or someone in charge of tech, and so this meeting was growing every year. We went from 10 people back in the beginning to one conference with actually over a hundred. It was a first class event. We had great speakers, we had a great program. We really want to create a place on the West Coast where we can really become a thought leader and share the latest and greatest on chat GPT with educators that are interested in learning.
So our training meeting was growing into a conference, Innovative Educator Conference. 2019 went great. And then we all know what happened the year after that. COVID came and, Michael, COVID was difficult. We are very fortunate to be here today as a company. That time tested us in many ways. Fortunately, there were some firewalls in place that kept us going, and so now we’re rebuilding and we’re bringing back the conference. So this is the regeneration of that idea. July 24th, 25th, 26th. There’s a very low cost to get there, and if anyone purchases our curriculums, it’s part of the package. They get it for free. Again, we’re all class speakers. It’s at a great hotel. We’re going to do some special events and we have some really cool sponsors, like Curriculum Trak.
We’re really looking to launch this place where people could come every summer, and learn the latest and greatest innovative ideas for the classroom. That’s really what we want to create.
Lauralyn Vasquez: Something I’d like to add is that we had an overwhelming response from administrators who said they wanted to come to our conference. So we were looking at what type of breakout sessions and what type of tools do administrators need? And Dr. Long, who is a friend of Curriculum Trak, has agreed to come and have separate breakout sessions and meetings with just our administrators. So if they’re already Curriculum Trak certified and they’ve done that training, or they’ve already done the training with BTE, then we’re going to just really care for our administrators and give them extra time and extra tools that they would need unique outside of Curriculum Trak and BTE. And I’m super thrilled that Dr. Long has agreed to come. Her heart is to love and care for administrators and teachers.
Michael Arnold: We’re excited to have her. Just to maybe put a finer point on it, the Innovative Educator Conference is for BTE users to get some training on the curriculum that you provide. It’s for Curriculum Trak users to begin the certification process. They can go through the content and basically take the assessments on their own after the conference, but they can get all of the content while they’re at the conference. And then there’ll be breakout sessions where we’ll focus on technology tools like Chat GPT and some others too. Outline that a little bit for us, Lauralyn.
Lauralyn Vasquez: Yeah, there is so much we could train on and we’re going to be able to just hit the tip of it. But anybody that comes to our conference is going to feel confident to get started with chat GPT. They’re going to understand how to do a proper prompt. It’s going to help them get the information that they need.They are going to know how to create lesson plans, how to use it to write thank you letters, or how to communicate with parents. Administrators are going to be able to use it in working with their teams. There’s so much that we can teach you, but that’s just like the highlight of it for administrators.
Ernie is super thrilled to do a session specifically for administrators on data for schools. Ernie, why don’t you unpack that a little bit?
Ernie Delgado: There are actually 10 different categories I’m going to touch on how administrators could leverage this, not just to improve their school, but also how to use it for their personal lives, from financial planning to planning a vacation. But I plan to show administrators how this tool can be leveraged to really make yourself a better administrator and have access to all this information and how to understand data, how to plan PD, how to write letters to your families, how to update your websites with valuable content, all that stuff specifically for administrators.
Michael Arnold: From the Curriculum Trak side, I’m looking forward to kind of launching the conference by just addressing why machines will never take over the teacher’s job. Even in the midst of all this technology, I think there’s a lot of research that just underscores the fact that teachers are here to stay. Relational teachers and mission-minded teachers are here to stay and I’m excited to share that.
And I was talking with Lynn, who will be our primary trainer there for Curriculum Trak at the conference and she said that she has been exploring chat GPT and thinking about how it could be helpful to schools who are mapping through Curriculum Trak. So she might have some ideas to share along those lines as well. So we’re really excited about technology and the opportunity to work with you and some of the other sponsors as well.
Registration for the Conference
How would we find out more about the conference? Where do we go? What would we tell someone who wants to just learn more and maybe even register to join us?
Ernie Delgado: Probably the best way is just go to our website beyondk12.com, and there’s a button there on the first page that talks about the conference. Click it and you’ll be on the conference page and then there are interest forms. Sign up. Let us know who you are, whether you’re a teacher there for Curriculum Trak, a teacher there for BTE, or an administrator.
And then we do have a block of rooms if you’re going to be staying there. Someone who doesn’t have Curriculum Trak or BTE, it would be $349 to attend the conference. And then for Curriculum Trak members, there’s no cost at all except for your hotel rooms if you’re going to stay there. And then if you purchase a BTE curriculum, K-8 Technology plus CEO Challenge or CEO Marketing, which are our business curricula, we can include the cost of the conference for free including your hotel room. You just have to get there. We’re not going to pay for your airfare or your mileage, but we will pay for your hotel room and your meals and the special events. I think we’re even going to plan some time at Disney California Adventure one night.
Michael Arnold: So we’re providing opportunities for networking, opportunities for meeting with other educators and hearing about their challenges, their victories when it comes to using technology or the other things that they’re facing and exploring as educators. That’s the beauty of a conference like this.
And I think we’ll find that there’s a lot of overlap in our networks, at least in our mission and in our spirit and in our purpose as educators. So share with us briefly, if you don’t mind, just what you hope BTE is able to do for education in the longer term, beyond the conference into the future. What’s your vision for education through BTE?
Ernie Delgado: I’ve been in edtech for 30 years, BTE for 20 years. So we’ve learned a lot, we’ve seen a lot of things come and go. And there are always ultimate truths. So we have one foot in the past, but one foot in the future, and that really gives us a unique perspective on a lot of things. And so we want to make sure that we leverage and share and give our knowledge to people through these conferences. We want to be thought leaders.
The goal is to use that time to feed them with really good stuff, to introduce them to new people, new ideas, and fellowship, and enjoy the process and be ready for the new school year. That’s what we want to happen. That’s what we want to be moving forward as a company.
Lauralyn Vasquez: I have a vision that’s pretty lofty, but my vision is that every child everywhere has access to learning digital literacy. We saw during COVID the inequities of students that didn’t have the internet. Devices were given to as many students as possible. But that didn’t mean much if they didn’t have internet access. And now there are ways where students can get internet access. There are actually cities that are providing internet access and libraries, right? Not just a physical library, but areas in towns where students can go. Once teachers have digital literacy skills, then they can teach their students and they’ll be much more comfortable having discussion boards online, which is what most universities are doing right now. So we need to be able to teach our students how to engage properly, effectively, to communicate effectively in an online presence.
And so that’s really my vision, that we will equip teachers in the latest technology because it’s always changing, so that they can go back and do what they do best and influence the world of children around them.
Michael Arnold: And that’s exactly where Curriculum Trak is. We want to help teachers in schools use technology so that they can be the influencers. Ernie, give us the website one more time so that people can check it out
Ernie Delgado: Go to beyondk12.com and right there on the front is the conference link. Click it and you’ll see the speakers. You’ll see the program, which we’re still massaging a little bit, and more importantly, to purchase the curriculum, if you want the conference at no cost. It will cover your hotel and everything.
Or just sign the interest list so we know who you are and we’ll make sure to get the information as it becomes more available. We’re really excited. And again, as Lauralyn said it wonderfully, we want to make sure that students are prepared for the future. And I’m sure a lot of people are aware it’s changing faster than ever. This innovation curve is happening.
Michael Arnold: You’re passionate about it, and that’s what makes it enjoyable for us here at Curriculum Trak to work with you in this way. And so we’re looking forward to the conference and hope that some of our friends will join us out there in California as well.
Ernie Delgado: We can’t wait to meet all the Curriculum Trak people.
Michael Arnold: Yeah, absolutely. Ernie, Lauralyn, thank you so much for your time today, for your investment in educators and education and for being on The Teachers Lounge podcast with us today.
Ernie Delgado: Thank you, Michael. We appreciate the invitation.